What Are Trigger Points & How To Treat Them Yourself

Trigger points are tiny knots in your muscles that can induce pain right at their location and in distant, seemingly unrelated areas of your body. In the latter case, we talk about referred pain.


Trps Are Not The Whole Truth

Trp Self-Massage

Symptoms Of Trps

Muscles & Trps Overview

The upper trapezius muscle serves as a brilliant example as it can not only create neck pain right at its location but also refer the pain to your jaw and your temple.

In scientific literature there is a differentiation towards tender points, which are exclusively tender right at their location and do not have a referred pain pattern.

In real life, this distinction is rather irrelevant as healthy muscle tissue is not painful when pressed on, as long as the pressure is not excessive. Furthermore it is possible to even elicit a referred pain pattern if you press in a healthy muscle extremely strong.

In a nutshell you just need to know that healthy muscles are not painful when you press on them. They should be pain-free to up to quite some external pressure. Never they should be painful when at rest. If they are, it´s an indication that there is some kind of dysfunction present.

All this only accounts for healthy people that do NOT suffer from other diseases like cancer, fibromyalgia, etc. which often go along with muscle and joint pain. Then things start to become more complex and go beyond this single page here.

Should you be in a hurry, you don´t have to read this whole page at once. Each of the following paragraphs can be read and understood on its own. Just pick the one that sounds most interesting to you.

Trigger Points Are Not The Whole Truth

This point is very important to me. Too often trigger points are treated as the ultimate source and cause of muscle and joint pain, which of course is nonsense.

Trigger points are “only” the initiators for a lot of pains, but not their primary cause. The latter always are the factor(s) that contribute to those points in the first place. In the vast majority this is an acute or chronic overuse of your muscles.

I explained this overuse issue in detail in my article causes of muscle and joint pain.

Still, I devote an immense amount of this website to trigger points and how you can treat them yourself. Actually I should say I devote lots of space of this site to the self treatment of your muscles. I explain them in detail, how they get overused, how to palpate and massage them and so forth.

Trigger Point Self Massage – Is It Possible?

I can answer this question with a definite yes. It is possible to treat those little painful knots in your muscles yourself. Here, a precise self-massage is the way to go and I want to emphasize the word precise. Uncoordinated rubbing on your skin won´t do the job!

In order to successfully eliminate trps, it is of major importance to massage them right on their location, right on the most painful spot of a tender area in a muscle!

Trigger points are most painful when you hit them right in their center. A deviation of only +/- 2 mm leads to a significant reduction in pain. So pain is your indicator here. Massage the “worst” spots on a muscle and you can be sure that you are working on the right location. Even if it is not a trp but “only” a painful muscle knot without the characteristics of a trp.

Always remember: Healthy muscle tissue is not painful when pressed on!

When treating trigger points, be conservative, at least in the beginning, and see how your body reacts to your massage. If you are overdoing it, there is a chance that you irritate your nervous system even more than your muscular dysfunction already does. This can result in increased pain for a few days.

But don´t be scared. That will be only the case if you really overdo it. Still, I wanted to mention it.

In a nutshell: Your job is to find and work the most painful spots in a given muscle, but not to maximize the pain. On a pain scale ranging from 0 – 10, aim at a pain level between 4 – 7. The pain should always have a “pleasant” quality. Over time it will get less anyway and you can work harder.

Further Symptoms Of Trigger Points

Beside the pain, these points often lead to the following characteristics in your muscles.

  • increased excitability
  • delayed relaxation
  • faster “exhaustion”

Now, what does that mean? It means, that the given muscle contracts too hard for a specific motion and then relaxes slower than normal. Because of the resulting elevated energy consumption and the excessive nerval activity, it exhausts prematurely.

Expressed even easier: The muscle uses itself in a poor way, doesn´t work as efficient as it could and thus gets stressed unnecessarily strong.

That´s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken by elimination of the trigger point and the initiating factors. Otherwise, it can lead over time to a kind of “paralyzation” of the muscle, which manifests itself in a pseudo muscle weakness.

In reality though, the muscle is not too weak but doesn´t get activated properly by your nervous
system. This is a safety mechanism to protect your muscle from “non-physiological” work.

If you have further question, just shoot me a mail!

Muscles & Trigger Points Overview

Abdominal & Hip Region

Rib Region

Upper Arm & Elbow Region

Forearm & Hand Region

Shoulder & Upper Back Region

Head & Neck Region

Lower Back Region

Abdominal & Hip Region

Gluteus medius

The gluteus medius is an important stabilizer of the hip.


The iliopsoas is a strong flexor of the hip.

Rectus abdominis

The rectus abdominis is one your abdominal muscles.

Forearm & Hand Region


The brachioradialis is a prominent muscle of your forearm.

Extensor carpi radialis brevis

The extensor carpi radialis brevis belongs to the wrist extensor group.

Extensor carpi radialis longus

The extensor carpi radialis longus is an extensor of your wrist.

Extensor carpi ulnaris

The extensor carpi ulnaris extends and stabilizes your wrist.

Extensor digitorum

The extensor digitorum muscle is required for inter-independently finger movement.

Flexor carpi radialis

The flexor carpi radialis mainly flexes your wrist.

Flexor carpi ulnaris

The flexor carpi ulnaris supports finger and wrist movement.

Palmaris longus

The palmaris longus muscle cups your hand and flexes it at the wrist.

Pollicis muscles

The adductor and opponens pollicis are the muscles that move your thumb.

Pronator teres

The pronator teres can induce wrist and forearm pain if it is too tight.


The supinator is a deep muscle of your forearm and often involved in tennis elbow pain.

Levator scapulae

The levator scapulae is a muscle of your upper back and connects your shoulder blade with your neck.


The scalenes are small muscles at the front of your neck which are unknown to most people.


The splenius capitis and cervicis are two cervical muscles that help to extend, flex and rotate your head.


The trapezius is a huge and superficial back muscle that has lots of functions.

Rib Region

Serratus anterior

The serratus anterior connects your ribcage with your shoulder blade.

Chest, Shoulder & Upper Back Region


The deltoids build the superficial muscle layer of your shoulder.


The infraspinatus is a member of your rotator cuff and helps to rotate your arm outwards.

Latissimus dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is a huge muscle located at your back that runs to your upper arm.

Levator scapulae

The levator scapulae is a muscle of your upper back and neck.

Pectoralis major

The pectoralis major is your big chest muscle.

Pectoralis minor

The pectoralis minor is the little brother of the pectoralis major.


The rhomboids are located between your shoulder blades.

Serratus posterior superior

The serratus posterior superior is located at the back of your ribcage.


The subclavius is a small muscle and lies directly under your collarbone.


The subscapularis is a muscle of the rotator cuff and connects the front of yourshoulder blade with your upper arm.


The supraspinatus also belongs to the rotator cuff. It connects the upper part of your shoulder blade with your upper arm.


The sternalis is special as it is not present in every human.

Teres major

The teres major is the little co-worker of the latissimus dorsi.

Teres minor

The teres minor teams up with the infraspinatus, subscapularis and supraspinatus to form your rotator cuff.


The trapezius is a huge and superficial back muscle that has lots of functions.

Lower Back Region

Erector spinae

The erector spinae is actually not a single muscle. It consists of several muscles of your back, and enables you to stand upright.

Upper Arm & Elbow Region


The anconeus is a small muscle, located at your elbow that helps to extend it.

Biceps brachii

The biceps brachii is probably the best known human skeletal muscle. It connects your shoulder with your upper arm and your forearm.


The brachialis is a short and powerful muscle that bends your elbow.


The coracobrachialis connects your shoulder with your upper arm.

Triceps brachii

The triceps brachii connects your shoulder blade with your upper arm and your forearm/elbow.

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